Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 8

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-03:52:07[edit]

The killing continued.

With bullets. With knives, with poisons, with explosives.

Piercing. Cutting apart. Burning. Drowning. Crushing.

He never doubted the meaning of it, not even once; he carefully conjectured the worth; the ones on the sunken side of the balance must be saved, and the other side must be emptied, so he killed. He kept killing, and killing, and killing.

Yes, that was correct. The many should be saved, and the sacrifices should be recognized. If the number of joys that were protected can go beyond the increasing number of misfortunes, then hasn't the world moved just a little closer to its salvation?

Even if innumerable corpses were accumulated at his feet.

As long as lives were saved. The ones that were protected were surely priceless.

"- That's right, Kiritsugu. You are correct."

Suddenly, he saw his wife at his side. With a smile filled with gentle kindness, she drew closer to him. Standing next to Kiritsugu, together on top of the mountain of corpses.

"I knew that you would come. I believed in you, knowing that you would arrive here eventually."

"Iri - "

It was a nostalgic and lovely face. Yet there was something that bothered him.

Was it the black dress that he had never seen before? There was that, too. However, he could not stop the feeling that he was overlooking something more important.

That's right; what happened to Saber? What happened to the remaining three teams of enemies? What happened to Kotomine Kirei? There were far too many questions. Which one should he start with?

Helplessly, Kiritsugu asked the question that came to his mind first.

"Where is - this?"

"This is the place where your wish is to be granted. This is the inside of the Grail you sought."

Irisviel answered with a welcoming smile. Kiritsugu was lost for words, and looked around him.

A pulsating sea of black mud.

Rotten corpses formed sunken mountains here and there.

The sky was crimson. Crimson like blood. In the descending rain of black mud, a jet-black Sun held up the Heavens.

The blowing winds were curses and resentment.

If one had to liken it to a word, then - how can this be anything but Hell?

"You're saying... this is the Holy Grail?"

"That's right. But you don't have to be afraid. This is still something like a shapeless dream. All it is waiting for is to be born."

Look, there - Irisviel pointed to the sky. At the center of this world, there was a swirl of deep black that he originally thought was a Sun, a "hole" that pierced the Heavens. A hole filled to the brim with a bottomless and heavy darkness. An incredible mass that seemed able to crush all.

"That is the Holy Grail. It has yet to obtain a shape, but the vessel has already been sufficiently filled. All that's needed is to announce the prayer. No matter what wish you may ask of it, it will choose to take a form most fitting to realize it. Then, once it obtains form and shape in the modern era, it will be able to go 'outside' for the first time."

"..."

"So please. Please hurry and give it a 'figure'. You are a human fit to define its nature. Kiritsugu, announce your wish to the Grail."

Kiritsugu wordlessly gazed at that repulsive "hole".

The thing that was there wasn't something that could possibly be tolerated by any human with proper sensibilities. So why was it that Irisviel can smile so calmly? Yes, more than everything, that smile felt out of place.

After all -

"...Who are you?"

Stifling his sense of dread with anger, Kiritsugu asked his wife who was standing before him.

"If the preparations of the Grail are in order, then Irisviel should already be lost to me. If that's the case, then just who are you?"

"I am Irisviel. There is no problem in thinking that."

The muzzle of the magecraft gun in Kiritsugu's right hand - the Contender that he had been grasping tightly the whole time since the battle with Kirei - was thrust at his opponent.

"Don't dodge the question. Answer me!"

Before the bloodthirsty muzzle, the woman in the black dress simply smiled with loneliness. As though she took pity on Kiritsugu for demanding such things.

"...True. I can't deny that this is a mask. If I don't put on an existing personality as a 'shell', we wouldn't be able to comprehend one another. I had to take this form in order to convey to you my desire.

But the personality of Irisviel which I recorded is unmistakably genuine. Just before she was extinguished, the last thing she touched was me. That is why I inherited Irisviel's last desire; because it is my duty to personify her wish to 'remain this way'."

With that confession, Kiritsugu understood, not as a theory but an instinct.

In this place that had been called the "inside of the Holy Grail", an existence which would call itself "someone who was no one" would be -

" - Are you, the will of the Holy Grail?"

"Yes, that interpretation is not incorrect."

The thing in the form of Irisviel nodded in approval. On the other hand, Kiritsugu further furrowed his brows in restless bewilderment.

"That's ridiculous. The Holy Grail can't be anything more than a colorless 'force'. There's no way it can have a will."

"That might have been so before. But it's different now. I have a will, and a desire. The will to 'be born into this world'."

"That can't be..."

Strange - something was strange.

If this was the truth, then this thing isn't the convenient "wishing machine" that Kiritsugu had sought.

" - If you have a will, then I'll ask you this. How does the Holy Grail plan to grant my desire?"

As though she was asked something incredibly strange, Irisviel tilted her head.

"That? - Isn't that something you, Kiritsugu, know better than anyone else?"

"...What did you say?"

"The nature of a human being like you is infinitely close to mine. That is why you can preserve your rationality even after being connected to me. The mind of a normal human would have collapsed the moment they are washed over by that mud."

Irisviel spoke, cheerfully, brightly, as though in celebration.

For some reason, that smile could not help but disturb Kiritsugu's heart.

"The way to save the world? Haven't you already understood that a long time ago? That is why I, as according to what you have built up, will inherit that nature, and achieve what you had prayed for."

"What are you - talking about?"

Kiritsugu could not understand. He did not want to understand, not even if he was mistaken.

"Answer me. What is the Holy Grail planning to do? What is it going to start if it descends onto the modern era?!"

At this exchange of endless disagreements, Irisviel sighed as though in resignation, and nodded.

" - It can't be helped. From now on, I will have to ask from inside yourself."

She held her white and graceful palm over Kiritsugu's eyes -

And the world blacked out.



Two ships floated on the ocean.

One ship had three hundred people. The other had two hundred people. There were five hundred crew members and passengers in total, as well as Emiya Kiritsugu. For the sake of argument, these five hundred and one are set up as the last survivors of the human race.

Now, Emiya Kiritsugu shall take charge of this role-play, and address the following propositions.

Critically-large holes have opened up in the bilges of both ships at the same time. Only Kiritsugu possesses the skill to repair the ships. In the time it takes to repair one ship, the other will sink. Now then, which ship will you fix?

"...The one with three hundred aboard, of course."

After you make that decision, the two hundred aboard the other ship capture you and make this demand. "Fix this ship first". Now then, what will you do?

"I..."

Before he could speak his reply, the Calico sub-machine gun appeared in Kiritsugu's hand.

Flames savagely spouted from its muzzle, as though the machine could act automatically; Kiritsugu watched over it, dumbfounded.

A single bullet spat out perforated four people, and in an instant, all two hundred people were massacred.

- Correct. That is what's expected from Emiya Kiritsugu.

Kiritsugu watched in a daze as the ship with a mountain of stacked corpses sunk. He got the feeling that every one of the corpses scattered on the deck had faces that he recognized.

Now then, the surviving three hundred people abandon the damaged ship, split onto two new ships, and continue their voyage. This time, one ship has two hundred people, the other has one hundred people. And yet once again, holes open up in the bilges of both ships at the same time.

"Hold it..."

The one hundred aboard the smaller ship abduct you, and coerce you to fix this ship first. Now then, what will you do?

"But... that's..."

With the flash of a naked sword, a bomb burst, and one hundred people disappeared into watery graves. That was the way of Emiya Kiritsugu. As according to what he in the past had built up, he had accomplished the slaughter.

- Correct.

"That's... that's ridiculous!"

What had been correct about this?

Two hundred people survived. Three hundred people died for them - that was the complete opposite of the scales' balance needle.

No, the calculation was not incorrect. You certainly chose the path to save the many and sacrifice the few. Now then, on to the next quest.

Indifferent to Kiritsugu's protests, the Game Master continued.

One hundred twenty and eighty were balanced on the scales. Kiritsugu killed every single one of the eighty.

Next, it was eighty and forty. The Magus Killer ascertained the death throes of the forty. He remembered every face. They were the ones who had been killed by his hands in the past.

Sixty and twenty -

Twenty-five and fifteen - the choices continued. The sacrifices continued. The mountain of corpses accumulated.

"This... is what you wanted to show me?"

Even as Kiritsugu recalled his nausea at the aim of this vile game, he listened intently to the thing that called itself the "will of the Holy Grail".

That's right. This is your truth. The answer within Emiya Kiritsugu. In other words, the acts that should be carried out by the Holy Grail as a wishing machine.

"No!"

Kiritsugu shouted, with his hands stained by blood.

"I didn't wish for something like this! I wanted some other method... that's why I had no choice but to rely on a miracle..."

A method you yourself are not aware of could not possibly be included into your desire. You wished for the salvation of the world; therefore, it can only be realized by the means you are aware of.

"To hell with that! How is... this a miracle?!"

It is a miracle. What you had once aspired for, the deed that you were unable to achieve alone will finally be carried out on a scope unreachable by the hands of men. This is nothing if not a miracle.

Five remained. They were all valuable to Kiritsugu. However, he was pressed to choose either the three or the two.

Whimpering in despair, he pulled the trigger. The face of Emiya Noritaka was blown away. The gray matter of Natalia Kaminsky was scattered.

"You... you're going to descend onto the modern era, and do... this to the entire human race? This is the realization of my ideal?!"

That's right. Your desire is a suitable form for the Holy Grail. Emiya Kiritsugu, you truly are suited to bear Angra Mainyu.

Three remained. Will he save the two, or choose the one? He grasped the grip of his knife with shaking hands.

He had already run dry of tears; with empty eyes like those of a ghost, Kiritsugu tore apart the body of Hisau Maiya. Again and again, he swung the knife down.

And now, there were only two who survived in the world.

Two equal values which did not need to be weighed on the scales, which could not be measured. The last hope that he protected to the end, exchanged with the lives of four hundred and ninty-eight people.

Everything having been accomplished, Kiritsugu, dazed and husk-like, was embraced by the warmth of a hearth.

In a nostalgic, gentle, warm room, smiles bounced between the faces of his "wife" and "daughter".

In other words, this - is the world of tranquility which he had sought.

There would be no more conflicts, no one will have to be hurt; a perfected utopia.

"Welcome home, Kiritsugu. You're finally back!"

Shining with a face full of joy, Ilyasviel swung her small arms around her father's neck.

The castle enclosed by clouds in the uttermost north; this was the only place of tranquility.

At the end of a bloodstained life, he found a kindness which shouldn't even exist.

If this modest child's room was by itself the entirety of the world, then there would no longer be a need for discord.

" - See? You understand, don't you? This is the Holy Grail's realization of your prayer."

Sharing this moment of utter bliss with her husband, Irisviel smiled.

All that was needed, was to pray for it.

His wife can be awakened. His daughter can be brought back.

Before an amount of prana as good as infinite, it would be a simple miracle.

The only thing left was bliss. As the last remnant of humanity on this planet of death where everything had perished, the family of three can continue to live together in eternal happiness.

"...We, can't go looking for walnuts anymore..."

There was not even a snowy landscape outside the window, but simply a swirling back mud, like the bottom of the sea. At Kiritsugu's absentminded murmur, Ilyasviel shook her head.

"No, it's all right. I'll be fine as long as Kiritsugu and Mother are together with me."

Petting and hugging the head of the daughter he frantically loved, Kiritsugu cried out surging tears.

"Thank you... Daddy loves you too, Ilya. I swear, if nothing else, that that's true..."

Only the hands had moved without faltering. As though they had been mechanically structured that way. Beneath the small chin of his beloved daughter pressed the muzzle of the Contender.

"- Goodbye, Ilya."

The head of the puzzlingly staring little girl exploded with the sound of a gunshot.

On Kiritsugu's tear-stained cheeks landed a piece of meat entangled with silver hair.

Irisviel screamed. Tearing at her eyes, tossing her hair wildly, she cried out in fury, without control.

"Wha - what did you do - ?!"

His wife came reaching out to him with the face of a devil, but it was Kiritsugu who pressed down on her instead, entwining his fingers around that small throat.

"The Holy Grail is something that can't exist..."

No matter "what" was inside this woman, the personality of Irisviel it wore as a shell was real. The despair and lamentation of her daughter's murder; the hatred for the husband who killed her own child; they were unmistakably what the real Irisviel would have bore, her genuine emotions.

Staring at it, accepting it, Kiritsugu put all his strength into his two hands, and squeezed down on the neck of his wife.

"What are, you... why did you, reject the Grail, reject us... my Ilya... no, why?!"

"- Because, I -"

The voice that leaked out from his mouth was simply empty, like a wind blowing in through a crevice from a hollow cave. There was no sorrow. There was no anger. It was obvious. There was no longer anything inside Emiya Kiritsugu. He turned his back on the miracle he had pursued, and relinquished even the compensation for that betrayal. It was impossible for there to be anything inside him now.

"I - will save the world."

The only thing left, persisting to the very end, was the words of his belief. How hollow those ringing words were.

Irisviel stared at Kiritsugu as blood congested on her white face. The crimson eyes that would always look at him with nothing but affection and admiration were now painted by bottomless curses and resentment.

"- curse you -"

The five small fingers that had been so graceful grabbed onto Kiritsugu's shoulder. From the five fingers biting into him flowed in a black mud.

"Curse you... Emiya Kiritsugu... to pain... to regret until death... I will never, forgive you..."

"Yeah, that's fine."

The mud dyed in hatred circulated in his veins, flowing into his heart. It drenched the soul of the man who lost everything. Even so, Kiritsugu did not slacken his hands. Forgetting even the meaning of the tears along his cheeks, strangling the woman in the black dress, he told her.

"That's all right. It's already been said - I, will bear you."

Within his shaking hands, the woman's spine snapped and broke.

And once again, the landscape was altered.



- As the dream that had deeply violated his heart ended, it seemed to have lasted only for an instant.

Before he realized it, Kiritsugu was standing back in the stage warehouse.

In his right hand was the Contender with its firing hammer still raised. Kotomine Kirei was before his eyes, having fallen unconscious while still kneeling.

Kiritsugu looked up to the ceiling and gazed at the black mud that was still dripping down all around him, charring the floor. Probably, it was that both Kiritsugu and, at the same time, Kirei, were washed over by the mud. It was very likely that their eyes saw the same thing.

If that mud was the content pouring out from the Holy Grail - then the vessel had undoubtedly continued the ritual of advent the entire time, on top of the Concert Hall stage on the floor above them.

He needed to hurry.

Kirei regained his consciousness, tried to stand, and was hindered by the muzzle of Kiritsugu's gun pressing on his back.

Immediately understanding the situation, a bitter laugh slipped out from Kirei's mouth at the ironic circumstances. They had been in such a hard-fought, life-and-death struggle; and in the end, what had decided the outcome was nothing more than simply who happened to awaken first by chance.

Or perhaps - it was logical that the one who ended the nightmare with his own will, would be the first to awaken.

"...You are such a fool that I can't understand it. Why did you reject it?"

It was a restrained voice, hiding his anger and hatred. For the first time, Emiya Kiritsugu heard Kotomine Kirei's voice directly.

"...Did that thing look agreeable to you?"

It was a dry and hoarse voice, so worn down it sounded hollow. For the first time, Kotomine Kirei heard Emiya Kiritsugu's voice directly.

They had both touched the thing that was submerged in the Holy Grail and understood its true form. Kiritsugu and the will of the Holy Grail had understood one another; Kirei saw that with his own eyes. And Kiritsugu's choice was, to Kirei, far beyond comprehension or tolerance.

"You... you must have arrived at this place by throwing it all away, sacrificing everything! It's something that you had to do all that to obtain - how can you just make it worthless now?!"

"The things that must be sacrificed for it are more severe than the things it can bring about - that's all there is to it."

"In that case, yield it to me!"

It was then that Kirei drew out the hatred from the bottom of his heart for Emiya Kiritsugu - for the man who he had once thought might bear a resemblance to himself, but who now was so very much his utter opposite.

"Even if it's unnecessary to you, I have a use for it! With that... if that thing is born, it can definitely bring an answer to all my doubts!"

Kirei knew of Kiritsugu's intentions. He understood what this man, who had been so resolute in rejecting the wishing machine that he laid his hands on even his most beloved, would do next. And that, was something he cannot possibly forgive. All of Kotomine Kirei's wanderings up until this day were being put on the line.

"Just don't kill it! It wishes for its own life, to be born!"

Forbidden from even turning around, the priest implored intensely; the assassin looked down at him with an icy gaze.

"Yeah, and you - you're just too much of a fool to understand."

His finger slipped onto the trigger, squeezing it, and the firing hammer punched into the primer of the .30-06 Springfield bullet.

Gunfire and a thunderous roar flashed for an instant.

With a single faultless round, Kiritsugu shot Kotomine Kirei's heart from behind.



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